We spoke to Alison Brennan, Founder of The Healing Harbour, to find out how our My Future Care Buddy Service is helping her support the well-being of people with life-limiting conditions and/or palliative diagnoses in Norfolk.

What kind of support does The Healing Harbour provide?

The Healing Harbour is a Compassionate Community Group (and registered charity), established less than a year ago in response to the increasing number of people in our North Norfolk Community who have life-limiting illnesses and their families/carers, who often experience a lack of statutory support.

The Healing Harbour has created a ‘Healing Garden’ a space in which to connect with nature and receive therapies for well-being including Reflexology, Drumming and Horticulture. Our focus is on supporting well-being in living with a palliative diagnosis.

We are passionate about sharing conversations and learning opportunities to ‘demystify’ death and dying, empower people to explore choices in advance care planning and nurture the inherent skills in our community by supporting compassionate response in action within our community.

How is the My Future Care Buddy Service helping you to meet people’s needs?

Our community group is made up of a diverse range of skills and people, many of whom have had no professional experience of working with people who have life-limiting illnesses. The My Future Care Buddy training has been fundamental, it provided a catalyst for individuals to explore in a safe environment their own understanding of what is Advance Care Planning.

The My Future Care Buddy training has been a fantastic support to not only explore the potential challenges to having the conversations around advanced care planning, but in accessing supportive resources, and providing a ‘structure’ through the Handbook to enable conversations.

The starting point in the group was to explore our own wishes and choices in death and dying so that as individuals we felt more familiar with the areas in which choices could be made.

One of the most important elements of the Buddy support is that it is ongoing, that the discussions that are held can be accessed when people are able to and that resources and experiences are shared. It is so inspiring to see all the different organisations and people involved in bringing these conversations into our cycle of ‘normality’.

The Healing Harbour has been sharing the work of My Care Matters at local palliative care events and community events, we have held supported conversations for the community after the viewing of ‘Dead Good‘ (Vamos Theatre’s Production exploration of palliative care, death and dying) and worked in small groups completing Statements of Wishes, Advance Decisions to Refuse Treatment (ADRTs) and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). We have also held Zoom sessions on LPAs for community groups. Some of us are working with individuals to help others become aware of choices they can make for their future care.

We have over 30 volunteers in our group, 13 of which have chosen now to take forward their Buddy training to work alongside others in our community to help explore choices at end of life and advanced care planning. The impact is ongoing as we are now about to start a ‘road tour’ around North Norfolk, offering the community through local advertising and our community connectors the opportunities. So from small starts, great things can happen, Thank you My Future Care Buddy Training!

Would you recommend the My Future Care Buddy Service to others?

Most definitely.

The Buddy training is a supportive, enabling process in which people from any walk of life can participate without feeling de-skilled.

The delivery was empowering, people felt safe and comfortable expressing their lack of experience and not knowing. The initial training provides a starting block for awareness and reflection and the My Future Care Handbook is a framework to structure the process. The most important component is the ongoing support and access to continued learning and resource sharing.

Thank you Alison for sharing your innovative work and your support for the My Future Care Buddy Service!

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